In a time when Pope Francis is cracking down on the Catholic Church’s extravagant spending, John J. Myers, the Irish American archbishop of the Newark Archdiocese, in New Jersey, is spending $500,000 on a three-floor expansion of his 4,500-square-foot retirement home. The 1.3 million strong Catholic dioceses is footing the bill.
Just in time for the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” when the dioceses calls on their congregations to donate, Myers' construction of what is being called a palace is getting underway.
Myers’ 4,500-square-foot house sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County, in the hamlet of Pittstown. Currently the house is made up of five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool. Valued at $800,000, this house, used as the Archbishop’s weekend residence, is getting a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition.
This extension is in preparation for the Irish American Archbishop’s retirement, due in two years, the Star Ledger reports. The 72-year-old Archbishop plans to live there fulltime.
The new three-story extension, now just a wooden frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, according to records at the Franklin Township building department. The extension will cost $500,000, excluding architectural costs, furnishings and landscaping.
A spokesman for the diocese, Jim Goodness, defended the lavish extension and the hot tub. Speaking to the New York Times he said “The press says it’s a hot tub; it’s a whirlpool.”
And added “He’s getting older – there are therapeutic issues.”
The extension, according to the diocese will be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of other properties owned by the archdiocese.
Goodness said “It is not going to cost our parishioners anything.”
When asked if this $500,000 could be spent on meals for the homeless he responded “Any extra monies will go to the diocese.”
According to the Times, Myers insists that he is addressed as “Your Grace” and added his “self-regard is matched by his refusal to apologize for more or less anything”.
Last year a priest who had a legally binding agreement never to work unsupervised with children was discovered working with a youth ministry in in Bergen County, NJ in the Newark Diocese. In Oradell, NJ parishioners discovered the archdiocese had allowed a priest, accused of sexual abuse, to live in the parish rectory.
Archbishop Myers wrote a letter to the parishioners of his diocese saying those who claimed the Catholic Church had not protected their children were “simply evil, wrong, immoral and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement.”
All the recent reports covering Myers’ mansion extension stands in in stark contrast to the remarks of the new pope, Francis I.
The newly appointed pope opted against the lavish dwellings of the Vatican apartment and lives instead in a boarding house nearby where he can eat and pray with others. He speaks of a “poor church for the poor.”
Last week the pope, who drives a Ford rather than the usual papal Mercedes, said “If a thought, if a desire takes you along the road of humility and abasement, of service to others, it is from Jesus.”
The Times article opens with a description of the Mater Dei Academy, a Catholic elementary school 49 miles from Myers’ mansion which has remained shut for two years due to lack of funding.
The local crossing guard told the reporter “It was a loved place, that school. But the church, I don’t think it’s rich anymore.”